Over the River and through the Woods

Over the River and through the Woods

Note: This post was originally published on my author blog on 25 November 2015.


When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant days spent at my maternal grandmother’s house helping prepare for the upcoming feast. It was prefaced by a long, summer growing season, canning homegrown vegetables outside in a huge cauldron propped over a wood fire, and slaughtering a pig MawMaw raised for sausage, hams, and bacon, cured by her own hands.

There’s nothing like canned sausage reheated and served with freshly made applesauce and piping hot, from scratch biscuits.

Back then, I was only a peripheral player in the game, the grateful recipient of hours of labor, and when the last plate was scraped clean of pumpkin pie and black walnut cake, one of the dishwashers and floor sweepers.

MawMaw died on Thanksgiving Day some twenty-five years ago. She was friend, mentor, confidante. A beautiful woman, from her sweet smile to her generous heart. I miss her still. I miss winter days spent in her kitchen reading trashy romances together, her sitting at one end of the worn kitchen table, me at the other. I miss long summer nights putting together jigsaw puzzles. I miss cleaning out the attic and discovering long forgotten treasures, and flopping onto her bed with another treasure, one of the many books stashed in the handmade wooden bookshelves in her bedroom. Her house was my home, more so than my parents’ in so many ways, I can scarcely count them all.

And so, when Thanksgiving rolls around, it is her warmth that stirs memory.

After her death, Mom brought our Thanksgiving celebration home, though she continued many of the food traditions begun in the heart of her own family. A perfectly roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, candied yams, creamed corn, green beans, MawMaw’s refrigerator rolls, and a dozen pies and cakes laid out for anyone brave enough to risk overstuffing themselves.

Mom passed away in October 2009, and with her went so much good. It was left to me, as the eldest of her children and the one that had taken an interest in family traditions and recipes, to carry on the Thanksgiving meal.

This year, I will bake that pumpkin pie for Cousin Tim, lemon and chocolate pies for my brother and father, candied yams for my sister, and mashed potatoes for my nephew. I may throw in top o’ the stove cookies for my niece and a peach cobbler with freshly whipped cream for Cousin Ethan.

But in my heart, I will be in that long cherished kitchen beside my mother and grandmother, carrying on the love they passed from hand to heart on the one day we set aside to give thanks for the blessings we have been given, wherever they may now be.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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